worsted vs woolen

first of all, thanks to everyone who commented on the fiber prep entry! it’s really interesting to know what people prefer and i think it may even give a glimpse into some personalities ;)

so. after you choose what sort of fiber prep you want, the way you spin the yarn is the next decision you have to tackle.

now, up until SOAR i had spun worsted, only worsted, and nothing but worsted (not to be mistaken with worsted weight wool). spinning worsted means that i treadle, let the spin build up behind my right fingers, then draft and allow the twist to come up the wool in a very controlled and smooth manor.

the second way to spin, which nearly blew my mind, is called woolen. i have to tell you that my friend gwen and i have totally different spinning styles, but no matter how much i have watched her spin, i could never make heads or tails of it. that would be because she spins woolen. during woolen spinning, you allow the twist to come into your drafting zone and then draft by pulling on the already twisted part. here’s a magical youtube video of long draw version of woolen spinning.  magic, i tell you, MAGIC!

coopworth roving and bfl top
four samples

this choice combined with prep choices give you one of four kinds of yarn

(2008) by rudy amann
(c) rudy amann 08

from top you can get either worsted yarn or semi-woolen yarn and from carded fiber you can get semi-worsted yarn or woolen yarn. so you can spin one, the other, or something in the middle. for both of the semi’s, you get some of the benefits of both. here’s a close-up of my carded samples and here’s a close-up of the combed. can you tell which is the semi?

okay spinners, so what is your default spin? why?

worsted. that’s they way i thought it (i.e. spinning) was done. i might be worsted wannabe woolen though. woolen just seems so much more laid back.  that said, i think 3 years of worsted style spinning will probably stick to my ribs for years to come.  it will be hard habit to shake.

mostly, however, i want to play with all the combinations on all sorts of different kind of roving. hurray for options and for more control over my spinning.

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9 thoughts on “worsted vs woolen

  1. That’s a great chart. It took me a while before I could keep the terms “semi-worsted” and “semi-woolen” straight in my mind and that chart would have been helpful to me a year ago! :)

    Depending on what I’m spinning, I mix and match all those techniques but my favourite method of spinning is longdraw from a fluffy, drum-carded batt. Generally I will spin combed top with a modified short, backward draw. I say, “modified” because I’ll smooth the fibre back as I draft, sort of in an almost continuous motion rather than the inchworm method, so that I can go a bit faster. This also helps me keep slippery fibres under control (like silk or tencel blends).

    Sometimes when I’m spinning crazy batts (full of neps and noils and bits of random things all carded in) I like to use a worsted technique, to make sure all the little extras get caught in the yarn securely instead of tufting out.

    All this is hard to explain without visuals, so I hope you get my drift. :)

  2. First off, let me just say how jealous I am of all you guys that got to go to SOAR! I am definitely applying for the 2009 scholarship.
    I’ve been spinning for about 3 years and all of those years, I’ve spun worsted. Recently I’ve been more interested in woolen spinning only because it looks so much quicker. I even bought the book spinning for speed and softness, studied it like a mad woman and still couldn’t figure it out. It finally “clicked” for me when trying to spin woolen with some hand carded rolags. I watched a video on youtube (can’t remember which one) and it helped me finally get it. My default is still worsted no matter what the fiber prep but I do still like to practice spinning woolen until I get it down pat.

  3. I do? Huh. I’ve never really had any idea what I was doing, what it meant, how to change it, or anything! Even when I read books or articles, I still don’t quite understand. Again, I can’t wait to visit so we can chat!!

  4. I’m so…UN-technical. I taught myself to spin through trial and error, and went with whatever felt right and gave me the results I wanted. I still don’t have any books on spinning except for the Spin It! book I got when I first bought a spindle. I skimmed it as I’ve never cared for trying to figure things out from words and pictures…I just need to DO IT! Anyway, I’m pretty sure I use a combination of the two styles, judging by what I saw in the video clip of woolen spinning. I would probably really benefit from some actual introduction to those two distinct styles, but am glad to have allowed myself to develop what works for me. Am now seriously considering applying for a SOAR scholarship for next year!

  5. Long draw is magic. It’s been a while since I’d spun, but the first time I managed long-draw, it was this lightning bolt moment. The combing vs. carding was something I did not know about, thanks for the very clear explanation.

  6. I started on a drop spindle so had some good practice with short draw (not knowing what that was, of course). When I started on a wheel I found myself doing short draw or what I think is called point-of-contact spinning. It definitely produces semi-worsted yarn. I like it.

    I was surprised to see that you could do long-draw with roving or top! I thought those preparations necessitated short-draw. I remember seeing a u-tube video of long-draw and thinking I would just run right over to my wheel and try it! Woooop! The roving fell right off and my yarn went spinning through the orifice and onto the bobbin. Frown and back to short-draw. It wasn’t until I was spinning with rolags that I could sort-of do the woolen.

    As an aside (to a very long comment) I like wearing and knitting with worsted yarn more than woolen. I like the stitch definition of the worsted and I always think the woolen is scratchier. Anyone else feel that way?

  7. Pingback: nature vs nurture « cosymakes

  8. Pingback: the default spin « cosymakes

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